International team gives medication to sick killer whale at sea

An adult female Southern Resident killer whale with her calf in Pacific Northwest waters

Modal Trigger An adult female Southern Resident killer whale with her calf in Pacific Northwest waters. AP

We humans are compassionate animals, partly because we're good at spotting cause-and-effect relationships. We saw one a few years back for a couple days.

The calf was born July 24, but died shortly afterward.

Her dead calf - which lost its rigidity a week ago - is holding up remarkably well, NOAA officials said.

Biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in the United States have tweeted that the team caught up with J50 and her pod near San Juan Island off Washington state.

Scientists are anxious that Tahlequah, or J35, is not getting adequate food because she has been carrying her baby for so long.

"We have obvious concerns about the displacement of her behavior away from foraging and feeding towards carrying the calf", Thornton said.

She was following Tahlequah's story from Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, and like many around the world, is moved by the whale's plight. Their brains are complex - bigger and more complicated in some respects even than our own.

"We've seen mother whales carry dead babies briefly, for parts of a day". It's now been 16 days and the orca mother still doesn't want to say goodbye. The carcass is starting to come apart; the calf's insides were visible atop Tahlequah's head Thursday morning.

Canada has received and is granting a permit for scientists to assess and treat the young orca, a female, in Canadian waters.

"Removing the calf would be a very, very hard decision, and obviously we would have to take many factors into consideration, so that's now not on the table", she said.

J-50 is part of a family group known as J-pod, which also includes the mother orca who has gained worldwide attention for carrying her dead newborn calf for more than two weeks, in an apparent display of mourning.

And unfortunately, we all need some time to adjust to the death of baby orcas, because it's been happening a lot more often. It's made up of three pods, all of which have been listed as endangered in both the USA and Canada. It has been three years since the population has had a new baby - under normal circumstances four or five calves would be born each year to this group.

Several recent scientific papers and publications have documented grieving behavior in whales and dolphins, and scientists working in the Salish Sea have themselves witnessed similar sad sights of mothers carrying deceased calves. Chinook salmon, their primary source of food, has been in a steep decline since the 1980s due to overfishing, habitat destruction and contaminated waters.

Ken Balcomb with the Center for Whale Research said the southern resident orca J35 was spotted Thursday in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the south shore of Vancouver Island. "Functionally, they will be extinct".

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